Failed vegan

This February I attempted to follow a vegan diet. I failed, eating meat about half a dozen times and ate dairy products about a dozen times.

I was motivated to restrict the foods I eat for a number of reasons but mostly to see if I could. The foods I most craved were eggs, tuna and cheese but cooking a batch of chocolate brownies last week probably undid me the most.

One good thing about going vegan was avoiding eat crap fried foods and pigging out on cheese, particularly when a platter was presented when I had an empty stomach. One bad thing was I found myself snacking throughout the afternoon and evening. I guess the lack of protein might have contributed to feeling hungry but I'm easily distracted by the thought of eating and have been hanging around the house recently.

Milk was easy enough to replace in a lot things but I'm not happy that soy and rice equivalents are respectively about one and half and twice as expensive, especially since they don't seem to be as effective in tea and coffee. Rice milk is great in fruit smoothies though, adding a silky texture that's much appreciated in the banana and mango drinks I've been enjoying.

Banksy on advertising

P.S. -- Apparently this wasn't Banksy

My dude-oir

According to my better half, the two rooms I occupy in our household are my boudoir and my dude-oir.

Who will cry for Walter White?

Breaking Bad is one of the better TV shows screening at the moment and there are a lot of things I enjoy about the series but the acting, direction and writing are all noteworthy.

The storyline follows the career changes of Walter White, from high school science teacher to criminal mastermind. He seems like a Ned Flanders-like guy and I like the sense the show is a kind of perversion of the usual superhero story as Walter learns to use his powers as a chemist for evil in making high quality amphetamine.

Bryan Cranston is the actor who plays Walter and I've noticed that as the show has progressed he's gained a producer credit. I guess he's had a role in developing the character of Walter and influenced the plot of the show, as well as being integral to its continued success.

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has said the character of Walter had to be simultaneously loathsome and sympathetic, and that "Bryan alone was the only actor who could do that, who could pull off that trick. And it is a trick. I have no idea how he does it."

Giancarlo Esposito acts the role of villain Gustav Fring on Breaking Bad and he's spoken on this dynamic as actors influence the shape of TV characters and plot development.

In early seasons of the show they regularly used a 'flash forward' device to build tension by showing a destructive outcome from the end of the episode in the bit before the opening titles -- which is a great way to catch a viewer's attention at the point when they're deciding whether or not to watch the show.

I like how the narrative for some episodes could probably be explained in a sentence or two but are filmed in a way that stretches time for maximum tension and dramatic effect.

As the show heads into production of its fifth and final season, I've been enjoying thinking about what might be the fatal flaw in the character of Walter White. There have been a few scenes where his ego has gotten in the way of his better judgment and it'll be interesting to see whether his desire to be recognised for producing high quality drugs undoes what he's achieved.

Then again, there are so many ways they could conclude the show and it's already packed so many surprises that there are sure to be more but I'd like to see Walter get away with it. I think my chances are good too, because moral ambiguity has been discovered by US producers in recent years. It's like they're finally freeing themselves from the Hays Production Code.

More importantly, who will cry for Walter White aside from his on-screen family?

Wild design

Not sure which modern decade these wooden blocks were first sold in but the trippy design on the box says it was another era.


The "fun, safe and inclusive program designed for GIRLS ONLY"!


These homegrown chillis have been making me smile. The bottom one is a habanero and are very hot.

Tasty wholegrain chips

These Woolworths Select wholegrain sweet chilli chips are really moorish.

I bought them reduced but I'll be tempted to pay full price for them in the near future as I really like the 'length' of the taste because I have difficulty reconciling the high amount of energy in chips with the very brief amount of taste they provide.

The "sweet chilli" flavour works really well with the wholegrain chips. The most immediate taste is acidic like balsamic vinegar with a hint of tomato and then the spicy pepper starts to warm, before sweetness returns as you chew the grains. I got the impression there's a decent amount of sugar included as it's listed twice in the ingredients.

Big wet

I don't understand the effect that the film Big Fish has on me.

Tonight I watched it again. Actually, it was more like I half-watched it. But as soon as they start talking about going to the river, I start crying.

My son was watching it with me, interrupting to talk about playing Zelda after the film and he said he started crying too. Then as the credits role we're both acting like nothing happened.

It seems we were both allowing our attention to drift away from watching Big Fish yet it managed to extract moisture from our tear ducts in final scenes. It's quite magical to me how it can do this but so is the film I guess. There are many memorable images in it, yet they're vaguely familiar. Maybe it's the symbolism?

One of the things that resonates for me while watching Big Fish is that it's a film about becoming a father and how it changes your own relationship with your father. This is one of the best things about having kids for me because I found I could let go of a lot of angst once I started to see things from the viewpoint of being a parent.

More DJ Food action

Future of cinemas

Wagga's Daily Advertiser has a piece today on the challenges faced by cinemas seeking to stay current by moving to digital projection.

In my opinion, the real challenge for cinemas is to ensure future generations continue to seek entertainment in their darkened halls. Digital distribution is already benefiting these consumers, who are finding it much quicker and cheaper to download the same content and watch it in home cinemas.

However, digital projection offers cinemas the chance to greatly expand the services they offer. How about watching the Olympics in real-time away from the crap atmosphere of a pub? How about becoming a venue for digital games? How about becoming the place where local content producers premiere their work?

This last idea is something I think I'll pursue to launch my forthcoming album of Leeton park remixes.

Man of Steel on The Iron Lady

Former Prime Minister John Howard wrote a review of the film The Iron Lady that was published in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) last week and I was entertained by this typo where 'retelling' appeared as 'retailing'. It seemed a sly dig at how the film uses a public figure to generate interest in a story that focuses on bigger themes than the career of Margaret Thatcher. The film made me consider that idea that women can have a career or a family and I think this is as much a focus as the actual career of Thatcher.

The more I thought about Howard's review the more I thought he'd missed a lot in the film. I can understand why he wasn't impressed with its portrayal of Thatcher, because The Iron Lady focuses more on how age has inevitably taken a toll on the once formidable politician. Howard mentions more than once the time he'd spent with Margaret and her husband Denis, as well his admiration for her career but I guess the reviewer might also be a bit unsettled by how he could similarly be portrayed. There are parallels to be drawn between both prime ministers -- aside from metal references as Howard was christened a "man of steel" by US president George W. Bush.

Howard argues there's "a broad ideological context in which the film can be viewed" and links it to criticism of Thatcher from "the progressive left," which is a label that probably applies to my political leaning. I left the film with more admiration of Thatcher's achievements than when I entered but ultimately it is a film and the representation of history must fit within a specific narrative.

At uni I learned that all histories are stories and one should be alert to plot devices which make them effective. This is where I think Howard fails as a film reviewer because he criticises the storytelling for being inaccurate when it obviously is looking for a different audience than that of a documentary and needs to shoehorn historical fact into a three act structure. It was interesting to me that the AFR's Review section which featured Howard's review on the front page had a line on the back page that "a great novel can take implausible fact and turn it into entirely believable fiction" because this also applies to film.

It should be noted there's a broad commercial context in which the film can be viewed too. I'd guess the success of The Queen led to producers cast about for similar subject matter and this contributed to the production of The Iron Lady.

The great leveler

I like the following from The Masonic Myth by Jay Kinney:

The Web, in its role as the great leveler, has rendered any site as more or less equal to any other site, undermining the former barriers and distinctions between "official" and "alternative" realities. This has contributed to the present juncture's unique psychological state in the population at large -- a mixture of expectation and dread that might be characterized as the mainstreaming of paranoia.

What's so secret about the ACTA?

On Friday night a mate spruiked on Facebook this video he had edited together by taking footage from a B-grade horror movie and a soundtrack by Queens of the Stone Age:

On Saturday I started thinking about how out of touch copyright is with what people are doing these days. I mean, Australia's copyright laws were way behind people copying their CDs to put on their iPods and now it seems like everyone is making a mash-up of some kind.

The thing is that copyright seems to be getting longer and laws are getting tougher and this effectively turns people like my mate into criminals.

One of the interesting things in WikiLeaks' cables has been the repeated demonstration of the importance attached to intellectual property interests by US diplomats. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is the latest push by the US to get countries around the world to tighten copyright and I've been shocked to see Australia sign up without any sort of debate in parliament.

Basically we're seeing a policy developed by lobby groups go straight past democratic process to get a few steps from becoming law.

It goes further than my mate editing videos, it means Australia will rely on imported intellectual property and will be tied to using it in the way dictated by corporations. Think of Monsanto as having a greater say in your life than your local member of parliament.

Australia signed the ACTA agreement on 1 October 2011. Here are a couple of comments on ACTA from Wikipedia:

Since ACTA is an international treaty, it is an example of policy laundering used to establish and implement legal changes. Policy laundering allows legal provisions to be pushed through via closed negotiations among private members of the executive bodies of the signatories. This method avoids use of public legislation and its judiciary oversight. Once ratified, companies belonging to non-members may be forced to follow the ACTA requirements since they will otherwise fall out of the safe harbor protections. Also, the use of trade incentives and the like to persuade other nations to adopt treaties is a standard approach in international relationships. Additional signatories would have to accept ACTA's terms without much scope for negotiation...

Newspapers reported that the draft agreement would empower security officials at airports and other international borders to conduct random ex officio searches of laptops, MP3 players, and cellular phones for illegally downloaded or "ripped" music and movies. Travellers with infringing content would be subject to a fine and may have their devices confiscated or destroyed.

While Australia rolled over for the US, Europeans have shown more spine:

Kader Arif, European rapporteur for ACTA, subsequently resigned from his position on 26 January 2012 saying "I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade."

On 3 February 2012, Poland announced it halted the ratification process as it "had made insufficient consultations before signing the agreement in late January, and it was necessary to ensure it was entirely safe for Polish citizens."

I'll try to leave aside my usual complaints about copyright but it's worth reflecting on the massive increases in copyright extensions that have been made in recent decades. Copyright now extends about a lifetime after the death of the author, so you can hardly justify the protection of creative works as being for the benefit of the creator. Laws are meant to reflect public opinion and, as mentioned, I think copyright laws don't reflect how the public use copyrighted material.

Copyright rant aside, it's still a shock to see the way lobbying shapes political processes. I believe it's even more worrisome in the light of recent protests against the Murray Darling Basin Authority's draft plans. These will impact greatly upon the cost of food in Australia as well as future food security and they can be linked to signing the Ramsar treaty and other international agreements.

ACTA might seem like a small matter and the trade minister might say there's no requirement to change domestic laws but the truth is that these treaties are the thin edge of the wedge when it comes to influence upon Australian laws and lives.

In the US, ACTA was dubbed an "executive agreement" rather than a "treaty," which allowed negotiators to skip the ordinary Senate ratification process. If ACTA becomes a binding part of international law, it will create a precedent for future treaties that avoid basic principles of transparency and democratic accountability.

100 Notions from a Nation of Two

This exhibition at the Wagga Gallery looks tops.

I've been a fan of the McEwans' work running The CAD Factory after visiting to see and hear Bruce Odland's installation and performance last year.

These sorts of collaborative processes are always fascinating. I've been involved in few, most recently the Ninja Remix Chain and Cut & Run project. The thing I like best is the sense of dialogue but it's also good to observe the characteristics of the response and consider what motifs and themes the participants use.

Watching the Watchmen

There's an irony in the news that DC Comics are producing seven prequel comics based on the Watchmen series developed by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

According to the Wikipedia entry on Watchmen Moore first developed the story based on some out of date characters DC Comics had bought. The company baulked at the idea of potentially destroying these properties, so Moore and Gibbons created new characters. The story of Watchmen even seems to acknowledge this as it's a story featuring the children of superheroes.

In hindsight it's quite funny that these substitutes are getting a new lease on life when the originals were denied one.

Alan Moore lands a blow in saying "I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago."

I'm happy to reserve judgment on the new prequels until they garner enough critical praise that I feel the need to read them.

The Watchmen movie was fun and the original comics were extraordinary when they first came out but have dated. You really get a sense of the Cold War climate when reading them now and the innovation of adult themes in comic books isn't remarkable anymore.

Alan Moore, however, continues to amaze and surprise me -- most recently with Neonomicon, which has the dubious distinction of perverting the work of HP Lovecraft.

Happiness is ripe tomatoes

I love the smell of ripe tomatoes. If they could bottle that scent then I'd consider wearing it.

Looking forward to making brushcetta with these tomorrow.

Elegant English this is not